Saturday, May 05, 2007

Conservatives Target Voter Turnout

The Tories are set to unveil a new bill next week, with measures to increase voter participation:
Canada has slipped to the low 60s in the last several federal elections.
"I don't think you can compel people to vote," Van Loan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"We're going to be bringing forward measures that we think will help increase the turnouts in elections, to help people feel they have a greater stake in the future of their country, to help them think their vote will make a difference and will matter."

I really don't think we need legislation to encourage participation. If the Tories are sincere, than it seems there are an array of internal changes available that they can embrace, to renew voter interest.

The single most important factor that explains lowering voter turnout percentages lies within a combination of cynicism and apathy. If you want to engage a suspicious electorate, then you need to present a process that they can believe in. In other words, you need to be transparent, honest, forthright, and speak a language that people can relate too. You need to present ideas that demonstrate a commitment to principle, an absence of partisanship and most of all, free of spin. People don't believe the words, the usual dialogue has a used car salesman aspect that is a complete turnoff.

Raise the level of discourse in our national institution, so that Canadians are presented with honest debate that they can take pride in. Reject the childish gotcha politics and bad one liners that has become the norm in parliament. Where is the motivation to participate, when the casual observer sees nothing but irrelevant nothingness, uttered by borish baffoons?

I believe this government has lowered the bar, which provides further alienation of the voter. Others will argue it has always been this way, but while examples are obvious, there is a consistency now that I would argue is unprecedented (as an aside Don Newman spoke with a former Liberal Minister and a former Conservative Minister, both agreed that the level of acrimony and nonsense now was unprecedented). This government has the power to change the dialogue, "do things differently" and present a more attractive image to the public.

Even when Canadians agree with the policies of this government, they question the motivations. There is a disconnect between "good government" and "good politics". To re-establish trust, Canadians must see a genuine quality, as opposed to a unrelenting drive to attain power. Promises must be kept, to demonstrate that words have substance.

If this government wants to increase voter turnout, then maybe it should stop micro-managing every sentence, stop with blatant dis-information campaigns, stop with the childish banter, stop with the divisive, wedge politics and stop with the idea that Canadians can be swayed. The government already has all the power it needs to increase turnout, and it starts with a sobering look in the mirror.


Gayle said...

It sounds like they are really targetting the lack of grassroots financial support for the liberals. He specifically mentions the fact that Dion has loans from private individuals left over from the leadership race.

My favourite part was this:

"Van Loan did not mention Wajid Khan, the Conservative MP who bolted across the floor from the Liberals in January and left his old Liberal riding association on the hook for more than $200,000 in loans from his own car dealership."

They are couching in terms of bringing back the vote, but from this article it appears their interest is attacking the liberals' ability to raise funds.

Steve V said...


I hadn't thought of that. Throw in the voter angle to mask the real motivation of hurting the Liberals. Now that is what I'm talking about ;)

knb said...

It's hard to tell where they are going here. Apparently, they've never met a law they didn't like.

Overall, I would agree with your observations and I don't think that legislation is required.

That aspect is a bit troubling to me, especially, when you consider the other bill they intend to bring forward. It's squarely aimed at the Lib's. Though I cannot for the life of me think what they would bring in, if not compulsory voting.

There is one line that Van Loan uttered that makes me uncomfortable:

to help them think their vote will make a difference and will matter."

They want to bring forward measures that will help us think our vote will make a difference.

Sorry to sound cynical, but that party is all about spin and messaging and devising something that will make us think something gives me no confidence.

Besides, why are they focused on "election" legislation. Aren't there slightly more important issues that require their attention?

knb said...

Geesh, see what happens when I take too long to type, lol. I hadn't read your post first Gayle, but I'm glad I'm not the only one with the thought.

Steve V said...

"Aren't there slightly more important issues that require their attention?"

All indications are that they are out of ideas at the moment. I read somewhere they may recess early for the summer to re-group. This legislation might just be an easy attempt to change the channel, and of course do what Conservatives do best, bash Liberals.

It is strange, only 15 months in and they are already challenged. Conservatives would argue that is shows how much has already been accomplished, but it's not like they came to power with a huge agenda.

joe said...

Other than the fact the Libs won't be able to mount a campain without "loans" I think this is in line with what PMJC brought in with his electoral financing regulations. Limiting the amount an individual can donate to a campain in easily avoided by calling the "donation" a loan except when the loan comes due default on it. Exactly what Liberal candidate Wajid Khan did last election.

Steve V said...

"Exactly what Liberal candidate Wajid Khan did last election."

Let's hope voters kick out these sort of politicians in the next election.

Scott Tribe said...

Steve: Gayle has it exactly right.

The legislation Van Loan is going to try and push on Monday is to ban loans to leadership campaigns and suggesting Dion's loans are of questionable ethics (see Ottawa Citizen and National Post).

Ti-Guy said...

The best thing the CPC could do to increase voter turn-out is to remind Canadians that low turn-out will result in more CPC governments.

knb said...

Wajid Khan. This man is a mystery to me, which is tragic really, because he seems about as deep as a puddle.

It took him about a nano-second, to start spewing every Lib bashing line known to man. How can you just flip like that?

Before someone nails me on the Belinda thing, there was a difference. She was a PC and never a Harperite. I haven't checked, but I doubt her campaign material as a con had her calling Martin a supporter of child porn, etc.

Khan has fallen in line without batting an eyelash.

I hope he's kicked to the curb too Steve. I'm in the area, but out of his riding and don't know it well enough to know how the voters will respond. He is relying on the ethnic vote of his riding however and foreign affairs has more than dropped the ball this past couple of weeks. There are protests going on in Montreal right now, re' how this gov't is treating immigrants, re' the rate of deportation. Also in TO, re' a Mexican immigrant and her family. Their famous messaging will play a part here.

Odd to see all of this popping up isn't it? I think there may be an underlying unease about just how "right" this government is.

Truth rises to the top, I like that.

Steve V said...

I've heard some radio ads that Khan does for his car dealership. It's actually funny to compare the "come on down" slick tone with the reserved MP.


Good point. Besides, demographically it's the younger voter that doesn't show up, not exactly the Conservative strong suit.

Gayle said...

"The legislation Van Loan is going to try and push on Monday is to ban loans to leadership campaigns and suggesting Dion's loans are of questionable ethics (see Ottawa Citizen and National Post)."

Oh well - they were not getting anywhere pushing actual policy, so they have had to fall back on the old "bash Dion" campaign.

knb said...

Actually, thinking about the past two weeks, if they come out bashing Dion again, I don't think it will play.

The public right now is focused on the mess they have made re' Afghanistan. Trying to look "better than thou" at this point is not smart.

Everything that has gone wrong for them, Environment and Afghanistan, specifically, they have tried to lay at the feet of the Lib's. If they push the "corrupt" Lib sentiment, I think they'll kill themselves.

They are morally corrupt and whether that is articulated or not, it shows in their actions.

burlivespipe said...

Bashing Dion for his loan-financed campaign? I guess that means the Cons aka CRAllianceP is about to come clean with Harpor's mystery bagmen in his leadership pusch.
Funny, I thought the gurgling coming from Harpor's police was to require more stringent proof, ie photo id and lots of it, to be able to go behind the cardboard curtain and vote. How does that wash with this 'Getting people out to vote' backswile?

Miles Lunn said...

I think another reason maybe younger generations don't realize how fragile democracy can be. Lets remember turnout is over 80% amongst the over 65 crowd, while under 30% amongst the under 25. I see the reason for this is the older people remember family members or friends fighting in World War II and many lost friends or family members so they realize how important it is to vote. Many younger people take democracy for granted and don't realize how important it is to vote.

I think if anything teaching in High schools how fragile democracy is and how people died to preserve our right to vote might help. They should also talk about some immigrants who fled to Canada in order to be able to vote. In fact last election there was a Nigerian couple from Yellowknife who flew down to Edmonton to get the citizenship in time so they can vote and considering their country is not a stable democracy they understand how fortunate we are to have the right to vote.

Debra said...

Great post Steve. Couldn't have said it better. I also think if journalists and editorial boards openly publicized their political biases as bloggers do on this website there would be less cynicism. To me the media is a large part of the problem. Thank goodness for the blogosphere for allowing us little guys to fight back. And I agree with everyone that Harper is sticking to his politics of hating the Liberals campaign. Really low and desperate I'd say.